[whatwg] A thought: <a href="..." method="post">

Henri Sivonen hsivonen at iki.fi
Sun May 8 00:04:12 PDT 2005

On May 7, 2005, at 22:04, Ian Bicking wrote:

>> There'd be a design bug somewhere if the UI wasn't affected! When 
>> something looks like a link to, the user has a good reason to expect 
>> that following the link causes a safe retrieval operation. When 
>> something looks like a button, the user has a reason to understand 
>> that pressing the button may cause an unsafe operation.
> Without Web Forms and nested forms, it *is* a bug to effect the UI in 
> the ways that would be required, because isolated controls cannot be 
> put inside the context of a larger form that submits to a different 
> location and performs a different action.

The canonical approach is making one form that encloses everything on 
the page. That way, you can sprinkle submit buttons wherever you like.

> And there's other much more safe operations that also cause side 
> effects.

If there are noticeable side effects (ie. something written in a log on 
the server does not count), GET is inappropriate.

> so that their UIs better represent (in those developers' opinions) the 
> functionality they are providing.

I don't think it follows that POST links are needed but that submit 
buttons need an alternative appearance that makes them more suitable to 
be packed in a table representing Web mail messages, etc. (I am not 
suggesting that form widgets be arbitrarily stylable. That doesn't work 
nicely with UI themes developed after Windows 3.1. I am suggesting a 
style property like button-type: grid-item; for selecting for a 
predefined list of button styles.)

What you are suggesting degrades to something unsafe. Styling submit 
buttons would degrade to something safe but perhaps ugly.

> I'm just trying to explain why this "incorrect" practice is so common.

I can think of the following reasons:
1) A very large number of people doing Web stuff are clueless and 
2) Many people haven't gotten in the habit of making page-wide forms.
3) A link is less verbose to type than a submit button.
4) Many people find submit buttons bulky and the buttons cannot be 
universally styled to be less bulky.

I think the last one is a big deal when the graphics deezyner overrides 
RFC 2616. But things that please them belong in CSS.

Henri Sivonen
hsivonen at iki.fi

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